Middle East Peace
Initiative, Jerusalem, 15th – 20th March 2006
Just before our visit a crisis
emerged in Jericho.
Despite being the very people being sought as hostages Ambassadors for Peace
showed their courage and came to Jerusalem
and continued with their tour.
Dr. Yang, chairman of IIFWP USA,
explained that he had been involved in the release of the Korean hostage
yesterday. The Korean Government had contacted our organization that we would
use our friendships and influence to release the KBS reporter. The Korean
people were anxious about this famous reporter because a Korean reporter was
beheaded in Iraq.
Dr. Yang, Rev. Jenkins and Antonio Betancourt worked to meet and call their
contacts within the Palestinian Authority to work for his release. KBS was so
grateful for their work when the release was announced.
Despite warnings of danger for
foreigners in the Old
City the march passed
by successfully. The relations with Arab-Israelis were warm and friendly. The
ceremony in Yad Vashem was powerful and moving. Many Ambassadors for Peace
have been moved by the experience here. The level of sharing and
conversations has been very profound.
At the Christmas hotel in East Jerusalem we had a lunch gathering
graced by the recently-appointed Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. There were a
number of speeches including an explanation of the importance of the family
given by Rev. Michael Jenkins. Archbishop Stallings perceiving a dozing post
lunch audience gave a hilarious account of how family life should not develop
before expanding on the biblical ideal.
Following this there was a session in the King Solomon
Hotel that examined the
current prospects for peace as perceived by Israelis and Palestinians and
Dr. Jonathan Spyer, an international relations specialist with GLORIA
research institute, expounded on the roots of the current political situation
and gave a pessimistic view of the prospects for peace from an Israeli
perspective. He saw the rise of Palestinian nationalism on levels similar to
prior to Oslo.
He saw the rise of Hamas as the political expression of an unwillingness to
accept that there are two peoples here and that a two state solution is not
He saw the Oslo
agreement as a secret negotiation in the context of international optimism.
It was a process born out of the dispute. We cannot negotiate now but we will
start a process that will ensure sufficient progress towards a solution. He
said, ‘The Camp David showed that the parties were as far apart as they were
in the beginning.’
He believes that, ‘On the Palestinian side the nationalism prior to Oslo is returning. The
current largely Hamas Government denies the Israeli state. It is the
political expression of an unwillingness to accept that there are two peoples
here and that a two state solution is not the goal.’
On the other hand Mr. Kamal Nawal, an American Palestinian who is the
President of the Free Muslim Coalition and has represented the US at the Organisation for the Security and
Cooperation in Europe, took a more idealist
view. He felt that maybe the failure of past peace efforts between Israel and Palestine were not the fault of the nations
involved but the scale of the problem itself. ‘The land is so small and the
divided between too many people,’ he said. ‘The problem is that you are
asking people to divide something that they are so emotionally attached to.
The two state solution will never work.’
He proposed a federation with the greatest power to be on the local
level. This would avoid the demographic problem that scares Israel regarding a one nation
solution. If there was a ‘United States of Israel and Palestine’ with each
state providing 50% of the Knesset Members the two peoples would have to work
together to be able to function.
The discussion between these two men of a younger generation than the
current politicians in power in the region inspired a number of delegates.
Mr. Walid Sadik shared how he was stuck in his early life to dislike Israel.
His early opinions were more extreme. He came to accept the existence of the
state of Israel
through the knowledge and friendship of many Israelis. He concluded that
without educating people generally about peace and without involving peace-minded
religious leaders there will never be peace.
Dr. Rony Smolar was a correspondent in the Middle
East for the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation for twenty years
he commented that he had visited most of the nations in the area. It is a
small area and people have to cope with each other. Dialogue is necessary and
it is IIFWP’s job
is to make the platform upon which they can talk.
To give a wider perspective of the conflict Rev. Darryl Gray, who has
experience in Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Montreal, Canada,
stated ‘It is not patronising for foreigner to come here to assist in the
search for peace. This is not just a local conflict but it affects the whole
It affects us right in Canada.
We love this land as much as you love this land because it is the root of our
A Canadian Palestinian said, ‘This is my first time back to my
country. Palestinians are caught between a rock and a hard place. Jonathan I
love you but we have to work it out.’